Chanukah, Night Six: The Dreidel

I don’t know how many current computer games have this feature, but back in the dark ages of DOS, many IBM PC games featured a “the boss is coming!” key. This key, when pressed in mid-game, quickly suspended the game and hid it with a screen that looked like a  word processor or spreadsheet. Once the boss was out of sight, you could press the key again and resume the game. This feature has found its way into blogs: a number feature this “web fire escape” icon, which if clicked, takes you to a web page that looks more work-related:

Reading blogs at work? Click to escape to a suitable site!.

(By default, that web fire escape should take you to Google. You can set the escape destination on this page.)

Dreidels once served a purpose similar to the “boss is coming” key and the “web fire escape” — but in reverse: they were used to make it look as if you were slacking off. In the time of Emperor Antiochus IV, study of the Torah and Jewish prayers were forbidden. When Jews gathered to study or pray, they had a dreidel handy just in case the “cops” or any “snitches” were passing by: if one did, they’d break out the dreidel and pretend to be playing a game of chance, which was legal. These days, the dreidel is a children’s game played at Chanukah, often using chocolate for “bets”.

I could write about the rules here, but it’s more fun to learn by playing. You can try out’s JavaScript-based game, but those craving a much flashier version (using Flash, no less!) should give’s Dreidel 6000 a spin.

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